Probiotics are the friendly, viable bacteria that have the potential to positively influence health. The value of beneficial bacteria inside the intestines may have far-reaching effects way beyond the gut. In fact, the microbes of the intestinal tract may influence nerve-cell communication and even human behavior. We have come a long way from the early days of Lactobacillus research, and new encapsulation techniques allow for shelf-stable strains of beneficial bacteria.
Two recent studies highlight the importance of probiotics in relation to the absorption of other skin-friendly nutrients and essential fats. The first showed that oral collagen administered in the form of a Lactobacillus yogurt drink significantly increased the collagen-building proteins in the bloodstream. The second showed that a probiotic yogurt drink with green tea, borage oil, and vitamin E significantly improved barrier function of the stratum corneum versus placebo (non-probiotic acidified milk) after six weeks.
Administering the probiotics and the GLA together seemed to improve the absorption of the GLA: the total amount of GLA making it to the bloodstream doubled during the study! Of course, it is impossible to say that the probiotics alone improved the skin barrier and hydration. The green tea, the GLA, the vitamin E, or some combination of the three may have been responsible. The point is that taking probiotic supplements may be of value for many reasons, including the enhanced absorption of collagen peptides and the other anti-aging ingredients found in dietary supplements.
The big question surrounding probiotics is which supplement or yogurt should be recommended for the maintenance of youthful skin. Many probiotic formulas are on the market, so finding a brand with therapeutic levels of viable bacteria inside the bottle or the yogurt container can be a challenge. There are few, if any, live bacteria in commercial pills, powders, and yogurts.
A Consumer Reports expose in 2005 highlighted many problems with probiotic yogurts and pills. Most experts agree that one billion colony-forming units (CFUs) of bacteria is the minimal level needed to produce meaningful benefits. The researchers at Consumer Reports found that probiotic formulas quite often fell short in CFUs.
In addition, the beneficial effects of probiotics appear to be very much related to the strain of bacteria involved. Sadly, probiotics are still marketed under the umbrella term acidophilus, leading consumers to believe that any old probiotic (or acidophilus!) will do.
We believe that probiotics are an essential part of the nutritional approaches to keeping your skin younger and we have placed our most trusted recommendations for probiotics and yogurts in the appendices.